중앙데일리

[FOUNTAIN]Nationalism and racism

Mar 02,2003
“The Family of Abe” is a novel by Jeon Sang-guk, a professor at Kangwon University, who has focused on the tragedies of the Korean War and the division of Korea. He depicts three rapes, one committed by Korean teenagers including the protagonist, Jin-ho, and the others by black U.S. soldiers.
About the racial prejudice depicted in the novel, which most readers might have passed over, Mr. Jeon said in a new book: “A few years ago, there was a public reading of Korean literary works in Germany. After a part of “The Family of Abe” was read aloud, a German protested that it was racist for me to write that the Korean women were violated by ‘black’ soldiers. I answered that I wrote without racist intent, but that it was an issue I should deliberate on as a writer.”
On Sunday, the National Language Society of Japan voted to change its name to the Japanese Language Society. The society’s journal will also be renamed to use the word “Japanese” instead of “National.” According to the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, the issue has been controversial for two years, with frequent contributions pro and con to the society’s publications.
In Japanese universities, names such as “Department of Japanese Language and Literature” now predominate. The percentage of universities that use the name “Department of National Language and Literature” has declined to 28 percent from 66 percent 10 years ago. Perhaps the nation’s bitter history was a factor; people who refused to support the militaristic government during World War II were called “not our people” and hounded unmercifully by the government.
South Korea is even more self-centered. In universities, the name “Department of National Language and Literature” is common. North Korea has even made “superiority of the Joseon race” an ideological matter to control its people, and is trying to lure South Koreans to join that ideology.
So we now have an ironic phenomenon that analysis of the ancient history of the Korean Peninsula by South Korean ultra-rightists is similar to the analysis made by North Korean scholars.
The people named to many posts in the Roh Moo-hyun administration were attending universities when nationalism began to spread here.
How has the passage of 20 years since then changed their views?


by Noh Jae-hyun

The writer is a deputy international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.


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